Author Guest Post by Michael R Martin – The Inspiration Behind My Writing

I’m delighted to hand over Bloomin’ Brilliant Books to Michael R Martin today. The author of three novels and a collection of short stories, Michael tells us about the inspiration behind his writing.

The Inspiration Behind My Writing

I write thrillers in a variety of genres: horror, paranormal and science fiction. But I like to blur them whenever possible. My narratives mostly play out in fictitious locations based on actual towns and places I know well. “Write about what you know” is sound advice. So I try to make the settings as real as possible. But what happens to the characters that inhabit them is a different thing altogether!

I was born in Lancashire in North West England. I left home at eighteen to study and spent the next twenty years living and working in different parts of the country. I returned in 2000 and met my long-term partner, Lez. She’s an avid reader of crime thrillers and gives all my manuscripts a thorough critique.

So far, I’ve worked as a design engineer, a volunteer IT tutor and a medical records officer. Currently, I’m a freelance graphic designer and computer animator. And, of course, a writer.

As a child, The Enid Blyton books were the first proper stories I read from start to finish and really enjoyed. My junior school headmaster read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to the senior class every December. The very nature of Christmas, for me, was changed in a positive way by this story, and I came to realise just how powerful the written word can be. When I started Grammar School, we were issued with a recommended reading list. My father bought me two at random: The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, and I couldn’t put them down. Both took me to other worlds I didn’t want to leave. A couple of years later, a friend introduced me to the Pan Book of Horror Stories anthologies, which steered my imagination into far darker places. At fourteen, all the seeds had been sown.

I enjoyed writing assignments at school and was encouraged by a teacher to hone my ability. But instead I chose to study engineering and worked in product design for many years. I did try my hand at short stories on numerous occasions but never felt confident enough to contact an agent or publisher. I started writing Screams in the Woods in 2009.

I’m a committed indie author. I have been published, but the publisher went bust without paying out any royalties. Once bitten, twice shy. I’m always prepared to talk to agents and publishers should they show an interest, but I’m not actively pursuing any.

The writers that are of particular inspiration to me now are H P Lovecraft, M R James, R Chetwynd-Hayes, Stephen King, Arthur C Clarke, John Wyndham, Philip K Dick and Alan Garner. I also enjoy the works of Martin Amis, Saul Bellow, Irvine Welsh, William Goulding and J G Ballard amongst others.

I draw inspiration from film and TV, too. The late Nigel Kneale is one of my favourite screenwriters. It’s hard to say which genre exerts the greater pull. I love both, to be honest.

As a graphic designer, I create my own cover artworks. The concept takes form as I write the narrative. That said, it takes quite a while to settle on a final design. I also create covers for other writers, and I’m keen to expand this business.

My first novel, Screams in the Woods, begins when a private investigator is tasked with finding two men who have been missing for over a year. As the case unravels, she realises that, despite her initial doubts, their research into a local, 19th century mining accident is directly related to their disappearance. She soon reaches the point of no return, with little choice but to confront a shadowy group hell-bent on changing the world to their design.

Area 62 is the story of an entrepreneur confronted by the evidence of something truly bizarre in a derelict shop he purchased to expand his internet-based business. It embroils him in an international conspiracy and leads to a quest for answers to some deep questions about the nature of reality and the destiny of the human race.

13 Dark Tales: Collection One is just what is says on the tin. The working title was Darkness at the Edge of Town because the majority of the stories were envisaged during long walks in the local countryside. My imagination became entangled with childhood memories, urban myths and sinister folklore. And the ideas took form along the ragged boundaries between town and country: bleak fields and lonely woods set against swathes of grey boroughs studded with church spires, industrial chimneys and steam-belching cooling towers.

Zombie World, my latest short story, involves four guys who are fans of The Walking Dead TV series and jump at the chance to indulge in an ultrarealistic virtual reality game that lets them fight and kill zombies. It’s intended to be a stag weekend to remember, but the experience turns out to be much more than they bargained for. This is the first time I’ve published such a short narrative, but I plan to release another in the not-too-distant future.

I’m always open to constructive criticism and feedback about my work. I can be contacted on social media where I’ll always respond to genuine people.

Twitter: @MRMartin_Author

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MichaelRMartinAuthor

If you want to discuss a book cover design, you can find me here:

http://www.redherringcg.com

A huge thank you Michael for the guest post. You can visit his author pages and purchase his books on Amazon UK HERE and Amazon US HERE.

Excerpt – Reality Rehab by Lisa Mary London

I am delighted to bring you an exclusive excerpt today of Reality Rehab, the debut novel by former producer Lisa Mary London. Grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy!

The Blurb

Faded soap star Gloria Grayson swaps banoffee pie for humble pie with a stint on reality TV. But her last ditch bid to salvage her celebrity backfires, when the ex-husband from hell is sprung on her in front of 10 million viewers.
Can Gloria win back A-list status, happy ever after and her Rear of the Year title? Reality is stranger than fiction!

Faded TV star Gloria Grayson has hit rock bottom. Sacked from her starring role in a top soap, divorced from hell-raising actor ‘Mad’ Tommy Mack, and obese from binge eating, her days as Britain’s sexiest blonde are well and truly over.

But her luck changes when cruel paparazzi photos relaunch her career, and she and her fat, feisty dog are booked to appear on TV’s Reality Rehab.

Gloria is incarcerated with an American psychotherapist, a rabble of D-list celebrities and umpteen cameras, then put on a starvation diet. But worse is to come, with the shock arrival of her alcoholic ex-husband.

Tears and tantrums ensue as the divorced couple’s therapy sessions take over the show, and ratings soar. The other celebrities are infuriated to be sidelined and Reality Rehab fast becomes The Tommy and Glo Show.

But Gloria and Tommy are hiding explosive secrets from each other and 10 million viewers – Reality is stranger than fiction!

Chapter One

Life’s A Bitch And Then You Diet

The weirdest thing just happened. A woman walked up to my table at Highgate Bistro and said: ‘Excuse me – Didn’t you used to be Gloria Grayson?’

I was reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest diet in a celebrity magazine, a forkful of steak and chips halfway to my mouth. I was taken aback. Used to be Gloria Grayson? What a strange question. Whatever could she mean?

I put down my cutlery, gave her my most dazzling smile and replied, wittily, that I was still Gloria Grayson the last time I looked. She was a dumpy old lump bless her, but the burden of fame weighs heavy on me. I can’t begrudge a fan the chance to bask in my celebrity aura, even a fan as drab as this one. Then I awaited the inevitable selfie request.

But it never came. She just raised a shaggy eyebrow, sniggered and lumbered back to her equally frumpy friend. They’re sat two tables down having coffee and tarte tatin. I hope they didn’t nab the last slices, that’s my favourite dessert. They’re whispering and giggling… People can act strangely in the presence of a star. It’s intimidating for them I suppose, they’re overwhelmed God love ‘em.

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I was approached by a fan. When I was on TV every week, the lead actress in Britain’s top soap, I was forever being mobbed. Fans chased me down the street pleading for photos and autographs, desperate to cop a feel of a genuine, bona fide star. Well there are so few of us around these days, thanks to reality television and all the ghastly fake celebrities it’s spawned.

To a great extent I blame my agent Belinda. She’s taken loads of these reality TV types on her books, you know the sort. Nonentities who are famous for absolutely no good reason. People without an ounce of talent, whose hitherto biggest life achievement was producing a bowel movement. These no-marks are NOT celebrities, but Belinda’s getting work for them hand over fist and neglecting me, the genuine article!

I wouldn’t mind if they had a talent, could dance, sing, tell a joke or even read autocue without squinting. But they can’t and they’re stealing work off us pros! We’ve earned our fame the hard way, been to drama school, toured the provinces, slept with TV executives. These cretins spend a fortnight in a house with CCTV cameras and walk out of there megastars. The world’s gone mad.

I met that Joey Essex at a showbiz do once. Nice enough lad, but he should be stacking shelves at Homebase, not hosting his own TV shows! He was all over me, horribly star struck. Gushed he was my biggest fan ever, said I was ‘Peng’ and ‘Sick’ and begged me to pose for a selfie. I duly obliged and later found he’d posted it to Instagram with the caption: ‘Me & Barberra Windser – Wot a carry on, LOL!!!’ It got 10,000 Likes and what’s more, NO ONE CORRECTED HIM! And this is what the millennial generation calls a celebrity… Liza Minnelli would be spinning in her grave, if she were dead.

Skimpy pile of French fries today, I’m still peckish. I’m sure these bistro portions are getting smaller you know. Maybe I’ll order myself a baguette basket. Baby-Girl’s fast asleep on the chair beside me in her tutu and tiara, snoring like a tractor. She had bangers and mash with onion gravy and petits pois, licked the plate clean. The vet says she’s obese but she looks fine to me. Though recently I’ve been buying her doggy dresses a size bigger. Last week I had to put my foot in her back to zip up her ra ra skirt… Maybe I won’t order her a dessert today…

Well there’s nothing else for it with no money coming in, I’m going to have to sell my engagement ring. It’s not like it has any sentimental value, I even paid for it myself. Tommy said he’d stump up, but needless to say he never got round to it. Oh I know, I know, the omens were there from the start. Last week I took it to the village jeweller for a valuation and he said the diamond was severely flawed. I said: ‘So was the marriage’.

Sad to say, it’s the only bit of bling I have left that I haven’t sold. Apart from my gold ‘GG’ necklace, but I wouldn’t part with that. Not because Tommy gave it to me you understand, just because… Well it’s my signature piece, my trademark if you will. I was pictured wearing it when I picked up Soap’s Sexiest Female Award, and at my big leaving bash for Jubilee Road. Oh and in those famous tabloid shots of me throwing Tommy’s clothes out of our bedroom window, into the swimming pool. It’s funny really, he’s the only one who’s ever called me GG.

‘Pour me a scotch GG, it’s medicinal – I’m sick of being sober’.

‘Where’s that bacon sarnie GG – My belly thinks my throat’s been cut’.

‘Get me a beer GG – I’ve got a gob like Gandhi’s bum-crack’.

I told him GG made me sound like a horse and he said: ‘Well you are an old nag’.

God I’m so glad to be shot of the vodka-soaked loser! What did I ever see in him? I should have married a millionaire, not a third rate actor and first rate drunk. I had my pick of men. I copped off with Richard Branson at a party once, honestly I could kick myself now. Or was it Richard Bacon? I forget. Either way, I could have done a lot better than Tommy!

Sounds brilliant right? Published in the UK on 12 July 2017 you can order your copy now.

About Lisa Mary London

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Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows. Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Tony Curtis to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.

‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’

Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.

‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of fattitude – Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’

Gloria’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa – ‘You couldn’t make her up’). Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube). The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.

A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.

Review – The Devil You Know by Terry Tyler

The Blurb

Every serial killer is someone’s friend, spouse, lover or child….

Young women are being murdered in the Lincolnshire town of Lyndford, where five people fear someone close to them might be the monster the police are searching for.
One of them is right.

Juliet sees an expert’s profile of the average serial killer and realises that her abusive husband, Paul, ticks all the boxes.

Maisie thinks her mum’s new boyfriend seems too good to be true. Is she the only person who can see through Gary’s friendly, sensitive façade?

Tamsin is besotted with her office crush, Jake. Then love turns to suspicion…

Steve is used to his childhood friend, Dan, being a loud mouthed Lothario with little respect for the truth. But is a new influence in his life leading him down a more sinister path?

Dorothy’s beloved son, Orlando, is keeping a secret from her—a chilling discovery forces her to confront her worst fears.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is a character-driven psychological drama that will keep you guessing until the very end.

My Thoughts

I read a lot of crime and psychological thrillers and at the time I got around to reading The Devil You Know I have to admit to being in the mood for something a little different. The Devil You Know had been sitting on my kindle for a while and I completely forgotten what the premise of the book was. I dived into it and was very pleasantly surprised. Tyler has written a compelling psychological thriller that is unique in its perspective. Despite being a thriller, it satisfied my need to read something different and I struggled to put it down.

A serial killer is murdering women in Lincolnshire and, of course, the police are desperate to find the killer to prevent the death toll from rising further. Sounds like your regular crime thriller right? Wrong! Tyler completely changes the perspective and follows the thoughts and lives of five unconnected individuals who each suspect, following the release of a photofit, that the killer may be someone they know.

How would you react if someone you were close to resembled a photofit of a suspected serial killer? Especially if their behaviour is unusual? Would you speak to them about it, look for evidence or go straight to the police? What effect would this have on your relationship? This is what each of the characters face in The Devil You Know and it makes for great reading. It takes you deep into the emotions, thoughts and feelings of each of the characters and their reactions. Tyler has given a wide range of experience within her characters – there is the abused wife, the lonely single mother of an adult child, the colleague with a crush on her work mate, the childhood friend who finds himself disagreeing with his friend’s views and behaviour and the teenage girl whose mother is in a new relationship – and gives each their own voice.

The Devil You Know has quite a complex plot with a lot of different characters and perspectives, however, Tyler pulls this off without ever causing confusion and ensuring that the story flows effortlessly. This is a real testament to her writing skills and shows meticulous plotting.

I adored the psychological aspect of Tyler’s book. I’m always intrigued about what goes on in the mind of a killer and Tyler provides us with an explanation for his actions. She has pretty much considered every aspect; from the family and friends point of view during suspicion, the reason why the killer commits his crimes and the fall-out from the suspicions and the impact on the family members of the killer after prosecution. You are taken on a journey of trying to figure out who the killer is with carefully placed snippets of information from the police. While I had drawn the correct conclusion in respect of one of the suspects, Tyler kept me guessing (incorrectly I might add) and finishes with one hell of a twist.

The Devil You Know is a great read. It is refreshingly different, utterly engrossing and compelling and really well written. It needs to be on your ‘to be read’ list!

A huge thank you to Terry Tyler for my copy of The Devil You Know in exchange for my review. The Devil You Know is out now.

Author Influences with Mike Thomas

I’m thrilled to have Mike Thomas join me today for this week’s edition of Author Influences. Unforgivable, the second in the DC Will Macready series is out on 27 July 2017 and I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour at the beginning of August. I will now hand you over to Mike…

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
The books I remember enjoying when I was very young were by Richard Scarry. From there it was Enid Blyton, and in my early teens I became hooked on horror and fantasy, devouring writers like James Herbert, Stephen King and Robert R. McCammon. The first horror book I was ever given was called Plague Pit by Mark Ronson. It had this amazing, pulpy tone and the cover was of a mildewed skull with one eyeball peering at you. I think I was about ten years old and the book fascinated me but scared the bejesus out of me, too. From that point – seeing how these authors could affect you so profoundly just via words on a page – I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I always leaned towards the creative side of things at school. This is another way of saying I was unimaginably awful at mathematics and the sciences, to the point where I’d skip double algebra to go into town and hide in a café and play on their Space Invader machine (which was, technically, science). I thoroughly enjoyed English and art subjects. I studied English Language and Literature, and flourished under one of the teachers. She was incredibly inspiring and really pushed us to create – short stories, poems, novel chapters – and to read a broad range of genres. Was I good at English? I really don’t know. I’m making a living from writing in it now, so I suppose I was okay!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I was a police officer for over two decades and made a point of avoiding crime novels. Now I’m writing them, so have had to play catch up in the last few years and I’m really enjoying it. I read Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin while writing my new novel and I must say it made me raise my game. It’s a superb book and I love her protagonist DI Marnie Rome. Most of the time it’s work by the likes of Denis Johnson, Tobias Wolff and Chuck Palahniuk, or relatively new kids on the block like Donald Ray Pollock and Frank Bill. So-called American ‘transgressive fiction’. But I’ll read anything. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, the label on the back of a jar of pickles. I just love to read.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Some kind of non-fiction travel work. I’ve been about, and live in Portugal now, and one of my ‘other writing jobs’ has involved travel articles. Perhaps humorous fiction. Probably because I think I’m hilarious. My wife would, quite rightly, disagree.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I refer you to question one. Stephen King was a huge influence. As I was discovering books in the early Eighties he was already a literary superstar, and pretty much everywhere. I burned through Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining, but It sealed it for me; I was fourteen when I took on that doorstopper and loved every page. Pennywise the clown, man. Scary.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Cormac McCarthy. Dan Rhodes – I love his work. For crime it’s usually the big guns: Connelly, Rankin, Billingham and so on. And I have a soft spot for American author John Sandford.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Anything by Cormac McCarthy. I think The Road is a masterpiece. Grim and troubling and occasionally very difficult, following the father and son as they walk the ashen world, but ultimately hugely moving.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
I’ve used quite a few events from my time in the police. Tweaked them here and there, of course, to fit the story. Many real life incidents I would never use, simply because people will think they are too far-fetched. You’d be surprised at what goes on out there! And as for real people? Nope. I’m a writer, therefore cannot afford to pay enormous out of court settlements!

A huge thank you for taking part Mike, I really enjoyed reading your answers.

Mike’s next novel Unforgivable is out on 27 July 2017.

The Blurb

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . .

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

Ash and Bones, the first in the DC Macready is out now … if you missed it you can read my review HERE.

About Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas was born in Wales in 1971. For more than two decades he served in the police, working some of Cardiff ’s busiest neighbourhoods in uniform, public order units, drugs teams and CID. He left the force in 2015 to write full time.

His debut novel, Pocket Notebook, was published by William Heinemann (Penguin Random House) and longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year. The author was also named as one of Waterstones’ ‘New Voices’ for 2010. His second novel, Ugly Bus, is currently in development for a six part television series with the BBC.

The first in the MacReady series of novels, Ash and Bones, was released August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre. Unforgivable, the second in the series, is released in July 2017.

He lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and two children.

Website: https://mikethomasauthor.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ItDaFiveOh?lang=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MikeThomasAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5895620.Mike_Thomas

 

Review – Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

The Blurb

THREE LITTLE GIRLS SET OFF TO SCHOOL ONE SUNNY MORNING.
WITHIN AN HOUR, ONE OF THEM IS DEAD.

Two women. Two versions of the truth.
Kitty lives in a care home. She can’t speak properly, and she has no memory of the accident that put her here. At least that’s the story she’s sticking to.
Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it – this is her chance to finally make things right.
But someone is watching Kitty and Alison.
Someone who wants revenge for what happened that sunny morning in May.
And only another life will do…

My Thoughts

Having loved Jane Corry’s debut novel My Husband’s Wife I eagerly anticipated her second novel. The wait is over and Blood Sisters is out now. Corry has again written a compelling domestic noir that keeps you guessing until the very end.

Blood Sisters is told over two timelines – one which takes place in 2001 and the other which takes place from 2016 onwards. Told from the perspectives of Alison and Kitty, Alison in first person narrative and Kitty in third, you get unprecedented access into the thoughts and feelings of the two main characters. Corry’s writing talent really shines through as she makes the voice of both characters completely individual. She captures both of their personalities brilliantly, but what really stood out for me was how she portrayed Kitty. Locked into a body which doesn’t allow her to walk or express herself verbally following a brain injury caused by an accident, Corry portrays her thoughts, feelings and frustrations perfectly which results in the reader really feeling her emotions and how irritating it must be to have fluid thoughts but be unable to get them out.

There is always more than one side to a story. As the tale unfolds through the perspectives of both Alison and Kitty, we are never sure which version is correct especially as Kitty has lost her memory. Readers of my reviews will know how much I adore an unreliable narrator and Corry pulls this off with skill. We know an accident happened when the protagonists were young but what is the truth behind how the accident occurred? Corry constantly keeps you guessing as to the truth as she weaves a tale that twists and turns.

Alison takes a job as artist in residence at an open prison and her life begins to unravel as she begins to receive anonymous letters, which make it clear she is being watched, both at work and home. Alison has a secret and the letters she is receiving cause her concerns that it is about to be revealed.

Kitty is harbouring her own secrets about that day in 2001, secrets that are never likely to be revealed due to her inability to communicate … or are they as securely stored as we think?

Blood Sisters is a tale of rivalry between siblings and what the consequences can be when resentment constantly simmers just below the surface. All of the jealousies that can occur between siblings – especially half-siblings with very different personalities – are played out to maximum effect. It is also the story of guilt and the impact it can have on your life

You never know where Blood Sisters is going to take you as Corry guides you through a twisting plot in which nothing is ever quite as it seems. A great follow up to My Husband’s Wife, Corry has firmly established herself as an accomplished author of the domestic noir.

Published on 29 June 2017 by Penguin.

A huge thank you to Jane Corry and Penguin Books for my advance copy.

You can read my review of My Husband’s Wife HERE.

 

Blog Tour – Contrary To Popular Belief by Neil Anthes *Author Guest Post*

I’m taking part in the Contrary To Popular Belief blog tour with a guest post by author Neil Anthes. Before I hand you over to Neil, here is what the book is about…

The Blurb

Did early Christianity evolve from Roman culture and customs? Was it based on truth?
Were the social issues of the early Roman Empire a driving force to adapt old customs to a new philosophy?

A young Hebrew man seeks answers beyond his religious traditions by spending fifteen years travelling and studying spiritual principles in India and Alexandria, Egypt. Upon returning to his homeland his message of self-awareness is feared by the elders and Temple priests.

At the same time the ruling elite in Rome are determined to use this controversy to their advantage. Keen to find a solution to the social and economic issues that have developed after their relentless conquests of foreign lands, they find that the young man’s spiritual message can be altered to suit their needs.

Contrary to Popular Belief is a thought-provoking novel inspired by Christian faith, and the quest for truth.

The Geography of Contrary To Popular Belief by Neil Anthes

The main story is told around the Eastern Mediterranean. It starts with the assassination of Julius Caesar in Rome, 44 BCE. It follows the chase of the two leaders of the murder to Greece.

The Roman side of the story is situated around the buildings of the Roman Forum about 5 AD. The Temples to Saturn, Jupiter, Cybele and Vesta are prominent. The temple to Julius Caesar is also used as the location of the Chief Magistrate’s court. The ruins of some of these temples can be seen today in Rome.

Ancient Alexandria Egypt is described in the book. It was a center of commerce and culture and was built about 2300 years ago. It was a magnificent city where the famous Cleopatra lived. We visit this city around 27 AD.

The geography of the Nile river region is described. The myths that came out of the natural cycles of nature and how life evolved in the region are examined.

Northern India around 18 AD and Judea from 30 AD to 51 AD is the setting for the travels of our Teacher.

Purchase Link: Amazon UK

About the Author

Neil Anthes is a retired small business owner and international business manager. He graduated from the University of Waterloo in Canada with a bachelor of science degree. He is a semi-professional photographer and currently lives in the Southern Interior of British Columbia Canada. This is his second book. The first, Moments in Time, Reflections on Personal Mystical Experiences, was published in 2014.

Website: http://www.neilanthes.com/

Thanks to Rachel at Authoright for inviting me to be part of the tour and to Neil for the guest post. Follow the rest of the tour…

 

Review – Ash and Bones by Mike Thomas

The Blurb

A cop killer on the loose in Cardiff – introducing a dark and gritty new voice in crime fiction, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and David Mark

At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away.

Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help ­- but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path…

My Thoughts

I have had Ash and Bones sitting waiting to be read for a while. The perfect opportunity came up to read it as part of the 144 books around the UK challenge and the fact that the second in the Detective MacReady series is due out over the summer. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading it.

Set in Cardiff, Ash and Bones follows trainee detective Will MacReady as he sets out on his new career path. He is introduced to his new team with a bang when a raid goes wrong and one of Cardiff’s oldest and most respected Detectives is killed on the job. Determined to bring the killer to justice, especially as it is one of their own that has been killed, it soon becomes apparent that there is more to this killing than first meets the eye.

Ash and Bones is a no-holds barred, gritty and compelling read. Thomas’s experience of being a police officer comes through to give the novel a really authentic feel. There is no glitz and rose-tinted view about what it is like to be a detective, instead all of the difficulties and challenges that the police face are there, along with the mindset that comes following a number of years in the force and the sections of society you deal with on a day to day basis. I really got this and understood the frustrations after a number of years working within social services where you are governed and frustrated by red-tape and you spend the majority of your life dealing with the darker side of human nature. This worked brilliantly for me and really helped to draw me into the book as the experience felt real. There is quite a lot of police jargon, however this is easy to follow and adds to rather than detracts from the book.

I really liked MacReady as a character and I liked the fact that he is a novice detective. All of the frustrations of not being considered able to carry out certain duties until he is fully trained, yet wanting to get stuck in and show initiative is there and I could relate to him. He has had a difficult upbringing and has his share of family troubles but he does not come across as a cliched. I look forward to following his career in the rest of the series.

As I said the novel is set in Cardiff, however there is also an international edge with the book being punctuated by a story set between Nigeria and Portugal. This intrigued me from the outset and gave me another reason to keep on reading to find out how the storylines would connect. Thomas kept me on my toes throughout the book with an ending that I hadn’t figured out.

A great start to a new detective series, Ash and Bones will appeal to those readers who like their crime novels to have a realistic edge and are not shy to walk on the seamier side of life in their reading. Gritty, dark and totally compelling, Ash and Bones is a cracking read.

Published on 25 August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre

Continue reading Review – Ash and Bones by Mike Thomas

Author Influences with Jason Hewitt

I’m extremely delighted to welcome Jason Hewitt to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today to talk about his favourite books and authors. I adored his novel Devastation Road and was eager to know about the books that have influenced him.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
The first author I was aware of was probably Beatrix Potter but once I could read for myself I got rather fixated with Roald Dahl and Swedish children’s author Tove Janssen. The book I’ve read the most times is The Hobbit. However, the book that really filled me with wonder and suddenly made me aware of the skill required to be a writer was Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. Whatever you do, don’t watch the film. It’s a travesty. But as a children’s book, the structure, and, in particular, the way the narrative folds in on itself, is storytelling genius.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Like most authors, I was a bit of a book geek at school so English was inevitably my favourite subject. I was always good at it, too, but not really enough for anyone to notice. I was not one of these precocious young writers with an incredible breadth of language and nor did I ever win any writing competitions. I remember having to read out a poem I had written about a spider in my first year at secondary school and I didn’t know whether to be thrilled or mortified. My A level English teacher, Mrs Baldock, introduced me to two of my favourite authors: Iris Murdoch, via The Bell, and Susan Hill, via her short story collection, A Bit of Singing and Dancing, although it’s her debut novel I’m The King of the Castle which, in my opinion, is her masterpiece. I’ve always been fascinated in why good people do bad things and the relationship between the main characters Kingshaw and Hooper is one of the most destructive you’ll come across in modern literature.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
These days I read almost entirely historical fiction. There is so much good quality historical writing out there at the moment that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. I can’t actually remember the last contemporary novel I read. I read (and write) to escape and whilst I know there are some outstanding works of fiction out there that tackle the contemporary problems of today, but we’re living in amongst the thick of many of them so I don’t particularly want to be reading about them, too, when I go to bed.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I can see myself turning to crime one day (in a purely literary sense, you understand), although it would need to have a historical setting. I take my hat off to any contemporary crime writers who can sustain any sense of jeopardy in a world where we all have mobile phones and help is usually only the press of a button away. I like to think that my novels are structured rather like mysteries, with clues, red herrings and reveals, so I don’t think it would be too big a leap to one day perhaps create a good old fashioned whodunnit.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I honestly don’t remember. For those who are avid readers I think it only natural that eventually we go from reading stories to wanting to create stories of our own. I see it with my oldest nephew who is not yet eight but has been writing his own ‘novels’ for the last two years. I like to think that he has been inspired by me but, if I’m honest, I think it’s probably more likely to have been David Walliams.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
It used to be Lesley Glaister. In my final year of university, when I realized that actually what I wanted to do with my life most of all was to write, I picked up a copy of Writing Magazine. The cover story was an article with Lesley Glaister. She was at the start of her career then and the piece was so inspiring to me as a fledgling writer that I became rather fanatical about her, not least because at the time I loved anything with an atmosphere of what I would call ‘domestic gothic’ and that is something she does so brilliantly – everyday settings but with a sense of the macabre. These days though a new Sarah Waters or Anthony Doerr always excites me, or seeing a friend’s new book that I have seen developing over the months (and years) finally hitting the bookshops.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
I regularly get blown away by the skills of other writers. In fact, whatever book I’m reading, there is always something that gives me a pang of jealousy, even if it’s just a beautifully nuanced turn of phrase. My favourite read of the last few years though is Ian McGuire’s The North Water. It’s set on a whaling ship bound for the Arctic in 1895, and the world the author has created is so rich and real, so raw and visceral, that you can literally smell the reek of sea salt, whale blubber and blood lifting from the pages. It’s so hard to create an authentic but exciting historical period and in my opinion Ian McGuire absolutely nails it.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Both of my novels have been influenced by real events. My first novel The Dynamite Room was originally inspired by the true story of German bodies being washed up on the Suffolk coast in 1940. It made me wonder what might have happened if one of them had not been dead. For The Dynamite Room I also investigated parts of the war that previously I had known very little about, such as the Allies’ campaign in Norway and the initiation of Hitler’s secret Brandenburg Division. In Devastation Road I looked at the events that occurred in Europe in May 1945 during the days before and after peace was declared. The immediate aftermath of the war is something that novelists, as far as I can tell, have largely ignored. Devastation Road investigates what happened in mainland Europe as the concentration camps were liberated and the Allies tried to deal with the ensuing humanitarian crisis. Come the end of 1944 there were 11.5 million displaced people in Europe, 7.7 million in Germany alone. Devastation Road is the story of just three of them.

A huge thank you Jason for taking part and the considered answers. I’m pleased to come across another Tove Janssen fan and, as usual, this feature has added more titles to my ‘must read’ pile!

Devastation Road is out now and has just been released in North America.

The Blurb

A deeply compelling and poignant story that, like the novels of Pat Barker or Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, dramatises the tragic lessons of war, the significance of belonging and of memory – without which we become lost, even to ourselves.

Spring, 1945: A man wakes in a field in a country he does not know. Injured and confused, he pulls himself to his feet and starts to walk, and so sets out on an extraordinary journey in search of his home, his past and himself.

His name is Owen. A war he has only a vague memory of joining is in its dying days, and as he tries to get back to England he becomes caught up in the flood of refugees pouring through Europe. Among them is a teenage boy, Janek, and together they form an unlikely alliance as they cross battle-worn Germany. When they meet a troubled young woman, tempers flare and scars are revealed as Owen gathers up the shattered pieces of his life. No one is as he remembers, not even himself – how can he truly return home when he hardly recalls what home is?

You can read my review of Devastation Road HERE.

About Jason Hewitt

Jason Hewitt is an author, playwright and actor. His debut novel The Dynamite Room was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Writing and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel. His second novel Devastation Road was longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and has just been released in North America. His last play Claustrophobia premiered at Edinburgh Fringe before transferring to London. When not writing he teaches at Oxford Brookes University, Bath Spa University and runs writing workshops at the British Library.

Website: www.jason-hewitt.com
Twitter: @jasonhewitt123
Facebook: JasonHewitt
Instagram: JasonHewitt123

Author Q&A with Charlie Laidlaw

Today I have a Q&A with author Charlie Laidlaw whose book The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is out now and published by Accent Press. 

Welcome Charlie, can you tell us a little about your books?
First of all, I’m the author of two novels, The Herbal Detective (Ringwood Publishing, 2015) and The Things We Learn When We’re Dead (Accent Press, 2017). The first is a satire on superstition, the second a satire on religion. A third novel, Darker Matters, is due to be published by Accent Press in January 2018. It’s a satire, among other things, on celebrity. Quite why my books are satirical, I have no idea, except that the modern world does seem to be becoming a parody of human progress.

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born and brought up in the west of Scotland, graduated from the University of Edinburgh, and then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody, before landing proper jobs as a national newspaper journalist, intelligence officer and, lastly, PR consultant. Actually, being a PR consultant isn’t a proper job, but it pays the rent. I like it when you can summarise your life in one short paragraph.
Of more importance, I am married with two grown-up children, and am embarked on training crows in our garden. The idea is that I give them food and they bring me presents. So far, my training isn’t working.

Tell us a little bit about The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
The book is, I like to think, a modern fairytale of love and loss. It has humour, but it’s not a comedy. It’s about the small decisions that we make and how they can have unintended consequences. It’s about looking back and finding new beginnings. The idea for the book came to me on a train from Edinburgh to London (which is apt because, civilised place that Edinburgh is, it’s the only city in the world to have named its main railway station after a book). When I got home, I wrote the first chapter and the last chapter, so I knew from the start how the book would end. The first chapter has changed out of all recognition from that first draft, but the last chapter is almost as I first wrote it.

So what was the inspiration?
I’m not sure where the idea for the book came from, and that’s what made it such a powerful one. However, in setting out to write a book about a young woman coming to terms with her life and finding a new beginning, I realised immediately that it’s a well-worn refrain – and best captured in the Wizard of Oz. It’s something that we all, to some extent, experience in our lives – finding sense in the absurd or the tragic and developing coping mechanisms to move on – and so familiar, through numerous books, TV programmes and films, that we forget what a universal and recurring theme it is.

I decided to embrace the Wizard of Oz analogy because, I also reasoned, everything conceivable in human existence has been written about many times, mostly by Shakespeare – and even he relied on older sources like Chaucer and back to Roman philosophers and writers. So, if everything in the world has already been written, I concluded, why not make the book a modern retelling of the Wizard of Oz (if only for those readers who want to make the connection).

It does therefore have all the Oz ingredients from a cowardly lion to ruby slippers, from a yellow brick road to the Emerald City. But it doesn’t have flying monkeys, because that would be too ridiculous!

How did the title come about?
The title came from the film version of the Wizard of Oz. In the book, the Emerald City is a real place – and don’t forget that L Frank Baum wrote several Oz books – but in the film it’s an imaginary place that only existed inside Dorothy’s head. In a sense, we all have an Emerald City inside us: an imaginary version of ourselves and our lives; a place where everything is a little bit more perfect. In the original book, Dorothy gets banged on the head, looks back at her life and then realises that there’s no place like home. In my book, the central character thinks that she’s dead (she isn’t) – so the title really flowed from that.

How did you start writing?
I don’t think there was ever any starting point. Maybe, from an early age, I realised I was fairly hopeless at most things, but could write. I have also always been a voracious reader and, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t write if you don’t read.
I wrote my first “novel” at about the age of fifteen, which I then burned at the age of sixteen. It was probably for the best, as a Nazi plot to resurrect a Fourth Reich from a base in the Norfolk Broads seemed idiotic, even to me. My second “novel” (still hand-written) was completed about a year later. I still have the manuscript, but nobody is ever going to read it! (An accidental revolutionary falling in love with an angel is even more idiotic). In the years since, I started on numerous projects, but never finished anything. I suppose, life got in the way. It wasn’t until a small handful of years ago that I got a grip and made myself write with greater purpose.
I’m sure there are many people out there, who can genuinely write and who have a compelling story in their head, who would love to write a book…but haven’t, because there are always other things to do. My advice: you can only procrastinate for so long!

Was it easy to find a publisher?
Like many authors, I could paper my house with rejections and, at times, it was dispiriting. But I knew that what I had written was good and persevered. Many others don’t, and I honestly believe that the best books ever written are mouldering at the bottom of landfill sites or circulating as bits of incinerated carbon – all because the authors gave up and threw their manuscripts away. My advice would be: honestly appraise your work and, if necessary, get someone professional to appraise it. If you/they have confidence in it, keep trying.

Next book?
It’s called Darker Matters and is a dark comedy about love, death, family and particle physics. It’s also a satire on the unintended consequences of celebrity. It’s a tragic-comic story, aimed at both male and female readers, but I hope it has heart, humour and warmth. Its central message is that, even at the worst of times, a second chance can often be just around the corner. It’s due to be published by Accent Press in January next year.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead Blurb

Intriguing and compelling… a tale that grips until the very last page – Jodi Taylor, bestselling author of The Chronicles of St Mary’s.

On the way home from a dinner party she didn’t want to attend, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.

It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident. Or does God have a higher purpose after all?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decisions to make and that she needs to find a way home…

A huge thank you Charlie for taking part in this Q&A! Find out more about Charlie and his books by checking out his website www.charlielaidlawauthor.com

Blog Tour – Dying to Live by Michael Stanley *Review*

Delighted to be taking part in the Dying to Live blog tour today with Sam over at Clues and Reviews

The Blurb

The body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles … but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case becomes… A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane detectives.

My Thoughts

Typically, I am once again coming into a series late! Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series, however it worked brilliantly as a standalone and I had absolutely no difficulties in picking up the story and getting involved with the characters.

When a Bushman is found dead outside the Kalahari Game Reserve his death appears to be an accident. The autopsy on his body, however, reveals some unusual findings – while he is outwardly old his internal organs are those of a much younger man. When his body is stolen from the morgue and a Witch Doctor is reported missing it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to this than meets the eye. Detective Kubu and his colleague Detective Kahma find themselves embroiled in a case of murder, smuggling and, ultimately, greed.

I adored the characters in Dying to Live. Detective Kubu is instantly loveable – a big bear of a man who clearly thinks the world of his family, loves his food and uses nana naps to help him think through his cases. Stanley brings him completely to life through the pages of the book and you are left with a real sense of affection for him. He is definitely a character I want to meet again in the rest of the books.

The setting in Dying to Live uplifted me – which is probably a bit strange for a crime novel that involves murder and corruption – with the sunshine and the African setting bringing light into what is otherwise a book touching on dark issues. The setting also ensures that when reading this book from a UK perspective it is highly unlikely that you will have read anything else quite like it. The cultural aspects of the book are one of the things I enjoyed the most. The Witch Doctors, Muti and storyline involving Kubu’s adopted daughter give Dying to Live a uniqueness, making it a thrilling crime novel that completely transports you to a different world while making you think of subjects you probably haven’t considered before. The juxtaposition between the modern and traditional aspects of life in Botswana are wonderfully portrayed in Dying to Live.

As the plot unfolds the reader is left wondering how the threads all fit together. Dying to Live reminded of the classic crime novels in both its pace and construction. It took me down routes I wasn’t expecting to go while throwing red herrings onto my path along the way. A thoroughly enjoyable read, Detective Kubu definitely has a new fan!

About Michael Stanley

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were
born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to
Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest,
eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A
Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal
Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA
Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book,
Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award.
Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award, and book
5, A Death in the Family, was an international bestseller.

Dying to Live is published on 12 July 2017 by Orenda Books

A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for the advance copy. Follow the rest of the tour…